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"A good coach can change a game, a great coach can change a life."

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5 Principles for Excellent Online Coaching

At Odhealth, we know that people value the ongoing support of an expert to make habits stick. That’s why we created a platform to allow Personal Trainer’s to offer their expertise at a time to suit them. We do this through our matching algorithm, and live in-app video calls. A win for our customer in value, and a win for our trainers in extra clients and income.

Online personal training is our thing, but we do things slightly differently, in that almost all our sessions are not physical. One thing we learnt quite early on in our product development was that many of the video call sessions were met with odd reactions or approaches. Sometimes a client would log on to the video chat in full gym clothing, expecting to be put through a workout right there and then. And sometimes the trainer too.

But what we wanted was to take the best part of personal training: the ongoing personalised support of another person, and deliver it in a concise way. Our trainers only get 25 minutes with our customers, so we had to think of ways to present the sessions in the most effective manor.

Enter our principles of online coaching!

Whilst this isn’t by any means an exhaustive list (we’d love to hear more suggestions too), each of these are things we feel from experience and research are really key to excellent online personal training sessions.

Principle #1: Think Big

All clients will have a goal in mind. We know this from our platform because they tell us that upfront! But even if you’re not using Odhealth, your clients will always have a big goal.

It is important that that is established first and foremost. Without a goal in mind, conversation can stray into many areas big and small.

Establish the goal upfront, and you may find the session becomes less about making a client sweat, but more about learning about them, teaching and mentoring.

Try to find the real reason behind a client wanting to put on muscle, or to run a marathon. Often the muscle isn’t the goal, but the overall strength it brings is.

Principle #2: Make it About Them

This sounds obvious, right? How could a coaching session not be about the client?! You’d be surprised the feedback we heard in our initial research, in which many people surveyed who’d had personal training sessions in the past felt like they weren’t the focus of a session.

It’s really important for effective coaching that a session is about the client, not the trainer. Put excellently in Michael Stanier’s book ‘The Coaching Habit’;

“coaching for development is about turning the focus from the issue to the person who’s dealing with the issue, the person who’s managing the fire.”

The simplest way to make sure you’re getting the right answers from your questions is to ask what not why. Think about it, if you are coaching someone with a goal of running a 10k, the question “why is running each day difficult?” aims blame at the person. Changed to “what is getting in the way of you running each day?” starts to pick out obstacles that you need to mentor on and find ways around.

Principle #3: Set Realistic and Reviewable Objectives

You already know the big picture, so how does your client get there? Look to break down the goal into fewer, more regularly reviewed objectives.

This is even more important for online coaching, particularly when sessions are less easily reviewed. For example you often can’t just test your client out there and then. You need to break bigger goals down into small objectives.

What we are aiming for is creating habits that stick, and the best way to do that is with many smaller objectives. In Atomic Habits by James Clear, this is put perfectly;

“Many people think they lack motivation when what they really lack is clarity”.

Breaking down an eventual goal of running a 10k into a 1.5k every-other-day, for two weeks, allows a client to start to form a habit they are really clear on. Going all-in with big changes often doesn’t work, so set SMART goals where you can;

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Time Based

Principle #4: Call Clarity!

Such a simple point and so so often overlooked! These are really simple fixes to make sure your client is on the receiving end of a good value call.

  1. Use headphones. Not only might others around you be able to hear what the client is saying, making them nervous, but your audio quality will be vastly improved.
  2. Get the light on your face, not behind your face. If a window or light source is behind you, your call will look dull and a client might possibly not be able to see you clearly.
  3. Be present. It is SO easy to get distracted on video calls. As in meetings in person, it’s also immediately obvious to the person on the receiving end that you are not focusing. Find somewhere you can do a call with no distractions, and don’t do anything else whilst you’re on the call.
  4. Sort out your connection. Try to stick to Wifi if you have it, as it will be more consistent. If you are on 4G, try to find somewhere you have a good connection and make sure you’re not on the move.
  5. Position your face properly. This one is the biggest culprit! If you are professionally coaching for lots of hours a day, find a good stand for your phone. If it’s only once in a while, then make sure you hold your phone at an angle where people can see you clearly and not just up your nose. Simple but very effective!

Principle #5: Structure your Sessions

It’s very easy to become distracted in video call sessions, particularly short ones. It’s also easy to get disconnected or cut out, which we all do from time to time. What really helps is to have a track to stay on, so you can get back on it should there be any interruptions or tangents.

At Odhealth we use a simple session structure, and make sure all our coaches run through this, ticking off a visual box in their head on each point.

  1. Introduce the session
  2. The big goal
  3. The long term objectives
  4. The short term objectives
  5. What’s next

Improving your Online Personal Training

We hope these tips were useful for you, wether an online coach with Odhealth or otherwise. Although these are designed for personal trainers, many of these tips are useful for any form of coaching online.

Have your own awesome tips? Give us a shout in the comments or on instagram. And if you haven’t already, download the Odhealth app below today.

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